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Title: "India actually is the ideal genetic milieu" : race, ethnicity and transnational biomedical research in the post-genomic era
Author: Merz, Sibille
ISNI:       0000 0004 7963 2835
Awarding Body: Goldsmiths, University of London
Current Institution: Goldsmiths College (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis explores the discourses and practices that promote the ethnoracial qualities of the Indian population as a valuable resource for pharmaceutical research and development. As India has become a key location for global clinical trials, population genetics and pharmaceutical consumption, I examine two central research questions. First, how does ethnoracial diversity, comprising both biocultural markers and socio-political concerns, shape the design and conduct of global clinical trials? And second, how are specific populations constituted and mobilised along these criteria by various stakeholders for numerous and often contradictory objectives? Grounding my analysis on a range of primary sources, including 42 qualitative interviews with scientists and policy makers, archival material and ethnographic data, I argue that biomedical scientists must negotiate multiple understandings of and interests in race and ethnicity, often rendering their meaning fundamentally obscure; in the post-genomic era, arguments about population heterogeneity or homogeneity have become a welcome avenue for myriad scientific, commercial and political projects. I also illustrate that researchers carefully calibrate notions of difference and sameness in construing the Indian population as a multivalent resource for such projects, rendering Indians ideal experimental subjects and biological citizens alike. This thesis thus extends the sociology of race and racism as well as debates in science and technology studies probing the revived concern with race and ethnicity as objects of scientific analysis through generating primary data and critical reflection. Underlying my argument is the notion that social constructionist reasoning has not helped dismantle categories of biological difference such that sociological enquiry must develop a broader understanding of how, when and why these are regaining traction. Ultimately, this thesis illuminates the discrepancies between the value of human diversity within and outside the laboratory or the clinic and emphasises the dearth of engagement with the structural inequalities conditioning global health research.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral